Tomorrow Never Came
Chapter 12

An hour into Ren's birthday party and the Dozing Dragon was already full to the brim with Gallaghers and close family friends. As her birthday actually fell on a Tuesday, the party had been organised to take place on the Sunday before her birthday for 'convenience' ("Or so that people can't bail with the excuse of having work" Ollie had joked).

The atmosphere was light and jolly as chatter and laughter filled the pub, however despite this, the guest of honour herself couldn't deny that she felt like shit, and had done for a week or so now. Ren felt drained and groggy but she was determined not to let the exhaustion get in the way of the party (mainly because her Mother would have killed her if she had tried to cancel).

'Besides,' Ren thought to herself. 'I don't even want to cancel.'. Truth be told it was a nice distraction having her loved ones gathered, especially to celebrate her. Despite thinking that she had grown used to living her life in isolation, Ren had very quickly realised that wasn't true at all. She adored her family and was currently kicking herself for wasting so many years away from them, even if the noise they emitted was borderline deafening. Peaceful was definitely not a word to be associated with the Gallaghers, that was for sure. There were loud bursts of laughter from her three uncles as her father, Emmett, discussed Merlin knows what with them, chatter from her countless cousins that gradually increased in volume as they showed off and competed with each other, and shrill squeals of delight that came from the youngsters as they ran around wreaking havoc.

From where she stood beside the imposing brick fireplace, Ren glanced around the room and took in the countless heads of curly hair and sets of dark, chocolate coloured eyes, identical to her own, that were considered a Gallagher trademark. She smiled, contently. She was definitely glad to be back.

"Merlin, sorry that took so long." Daniel suddenly managed to break his way through the crowd, a chilled glass of white wine in one hand and a pint of ale in the other. "One pinot grigio, milady."

"That's alright," Ren assured him as he handed her the glass of wine. "This wine is worth waiting for." She added with a smirk. Ren had long since been a fan of the elf made pinot grigio sold at the Dozing Dragon and took an eager sip, only to find herself wincing at the surprisingly acidic taste that took the place of the usually crisp and fruity flavour. 'Huh,' Ren thought to herself. 'They must have changed to a different brand'. Oh well, she wasn't particularly fussy when it came to wine.

"When you said you had a big family, I still didn't expect this many people." Daniel was saying after he had taken a swig of his own drink.

"No one ever does." Ren laughed. After their impromptu coffee date, Ren couldn't deny that Daniel had been a complete gentleman. He had asked about her family, her interests, what she had done before starting work at Muggle Melody, and Ren had found the man surprisingly easy to talk to. She had explained how she had spent the best part of her life living in Sweden after the Dark Lord had fallen for the first time, opting to leave out the painful events that had led her there, and Daniel didn't pester her for those details.

Ren had realised that she had judged Daniel entirely off his media image, which she couldn't help but feel rather guilty over. However, Daniel, it turned out, had an acute sense of self-awareness.

"The fact of the matter is-" Daniel began in response to Ren admitting that she had put off going for a drink to him because of his public image. The pair were sat in a quiet coffee shop ten minutes away from the Muggle Melody studios. "-that I am all of those things the papers say. I'm confident, charismatic, attractive- wouldn't you agree, Ren?" Daniel queried, teasingly, with a quirked brow as Ren jokingly rolled her eyes. "And I like a bit of attention. To the media, this all adds up to a certain character. That of a philandering playboy." He finished, and Ren realised he was correct. Despite having the opportunity to know and judge Daniel for herself, she had instead viewed him as presented by the media.

"But you are a bit of a ladies' man, Daniel. Surely there's no denying that." Ren countered, to which the man shrugged innocently.

"Maybe so, but when I get involved with a woman, they are usually well aware of what I'm like. I try to avoid stringing anyone along, so I'm hardly the Lothario that Witches Weekly would have you believe."

"So should I expect the same? A few weeks of fun before we go our separate ways?" Ren asked, boldly. Daniel pushed his floppy hair back before looking her dead in the eye.

"I don't know. I will admit I particularly enjoyed the thrill of the chase, but there is something about you that makes me want to find out more. I may stick around if you'd let me…" He said in a cool and collected manner. Ren resisted blushing.

"Lucky me. But the magazines will be awfully disappointed in you."

"Ah, well I'm sure they'd get over it. They have plenty of other bachelors they give the same treatment as me; Hadley Warbeck, Finbar Quigly, Sirius Black-" Ren nearly spat out her coffee at the mention of Sirius. Now she was blushing.

"I suppose you're right," She said, eager to change the subject. "But you do enjoy the attention, don't you? Even just a little bit?"

"Guilty." Daniel smirked.

"So, I have a question and I want you to be completely honest with me now-" Daniel was saying, earnestly, holding Ren's attention over the hustle and bustle of the Dozing Dragon.

"Oh?" She asked with a furrowed brow, her curiosity piqued.

"Do you ever forget anyone's names?" Daniel asked seriously, gesturing around the room, and Ren couldn't help but laugh. "Because I don't think I've ever seen so many children in one place!" He added, persistently. "So surely names escape your mind occasionally. You can admit it, I won't tell anyone." He joked in a hushed tone as Ren continued to chuckle.

"You're awful!" She scolded.

"Come on, I think it's a valid question. To top it all off most people here look virtually identical. If I was to ask you for the name of that chap over there with the curly hair and brown eyes, you would have to give me the names of about sixty percent of the people here." Daniel quipped.

"Hm, curly hair and brown eyes. That sounds familiar. I would have hoped I was more distinguishable." Ren teased, flicking her own chocolate curls over her shoulder.

"Oh, now that you needn't worry about that, Ren. You certainly stand out." Daniel's blue eyes glanced over Ren in appreciation. She was wearing an emerald green dress made of chiffon with a tight bodice and a floating pleated skirt that fell to her knees teamed with a pair of gold heeled sandals.

"Well thank you very much, and to answer your question; no, I never forget."

"Really?"

"Really. I'm just that good." Ren said, and Daniel laughed.

Just then Ren's mother appeared, giving them both a warm smile. Daniel had been introduced to her parents and siblings when he had arrived and his charming persona had made it a perfectly pleasant exchange.

"Sorry to interrupt you two," Violet said. "But I mentioned to my sister-in-law, Laurie, that Daniel Dalton from Muggle Melody is here and she just wouldn't believe me!"

"Mum!" Ren tried to interrupted, embarrassed.

"I don't know why she didn't believe me, seeing as you work for the same radio station, Ren, it's not exactly unrealistic! But she just was not having it!" Violet continued.

"Oh really?" Daniel asked with a satisfied grin.

"Really! So, I was hoping I could borrow you, Daniel, for a few moments and you could come and say hello." Violet propositioned, smiling, and Ren felt a rush of mortification wash over her. She had spent so much time warning her family not to bother Harry and Sirius when they arrived that she had completely forgotten to tell them to leave Daniel be!

"Daniel, I'm so sorry." She tried to apologise. "Mum, you can't just take him round, showing him off!"

"Ren, darling, don't worry! It's fine." Daniel insisted, calmly. "And I'd be happy to go with you, Violet. That's if Ren is happy to share me?" He flashed her a brazen look which Ren couldn't help but laugh at. Of course he didn't mind the attention.

"Far be it from me to keep you from your audience." She teased. "Go ahead."

"I'll be back," Daniel assured with a smile, pressing a quick peck to her cheek. "Unless you wish to come along?"

"And watch all my aunties fawn over you? I'll give it a miss thank you." Ren laughed. "I'm going to nip outside for some fresh air. I'll see you in a bit."

-x-

Ren was sat on a picnic bench outside the front of the Dozing Dragon with Loren by her side. The two women were basking in the early summer sunshine and enjoying their refreshing drinks. Other party goers had split outside, including Loren's sons Joshua and Rio, who were playing with a number of Ren's young cousins, running up and down Diagon Ally, whooping with glee as the women kept an eye on them.

"You still feeling rough?" Loren asked Ren, who nodded whilst she adjusted her sunglasses.

"Yeah, I just feel exhausted and sluggish for no apparent reason. But that hardly seems like something to go to the doctors for, so hopefully if I take it easy then I'll start to perk up over the next few days." She said.

"Maybe you're pregnant!" Loren teased, to which Ren let out an indignant snort of amusement. "When I was pregnant with Joshua I didn't really have any of that, but then with Rio, for the first month or so, I literally felt like I'd not only been ran over by the Knight Bus, but it had come back and reversed over me two or three times for good measure."

"Good God," Ren couldn't hide either the astonishment or terror in her voice.

"Yeah it was horrific. Don't get me wrong, I love my son more than life itself but feeling like that didn't exactly make me excited about the rest of the pregnancy and what was to come." Loren exhaled with a sigh, taking a big gulp of wine as if to try and dull the memory.

"Well I'm not bloody pregnant, Loren, so we don't need to worry about that. I'm nearly forty, for Merlin's sake." Ren dismissed.

"It's not impossible! Especially for witches!"

"I know, but I think that ship has sailed for me personally."

"But you know, you and Sirius… or have you got down and dirty with Daniel yet?" Loren mused, coyly, trailing off with a smirk before taking another sip of wine. However she nearly dropped the glass when Ren whacked her arm.

"But nothing! Feeling rough after you've had sex doesn't mean that you're pregnant. It can be completely unrelated! And no, Daniel and I haven't. Not yet. It's only been a couple of weeks." Ren said.

"Bloody hell, I don't think Daniel Dalton has ever waited 'a couple of weeks' in his life. You must be special." Loren joked.

"Ha, ha," Ren replied, dryly.

"Anyway, I'm just saying. If you're pregnant-"

"-Merlin, if I cast a pregnancy detection spell later on tonight just to prove to you that I'm not pregnant will you drop it? Please?!" Ren demanded, her voice sharper then she had originally intended.

"Yes, I will." Loren replied smugly. Ren didn't respond, instead turning away and focusing her attention on the kids darting around on the cobbled pathways. "You know I'm only saying this because I care, right?" Loren eventually asked in a soft voice after a few beats of uncomfortable silence. Ren felt her friend take her hand from where it had been resting on the table before them and give it a gentle squeeze. At Loren's words the tension that had permeated Ren's body vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

"I know," She said, turning back to Loren and giving her a small smile which Loren immediately returned, but then Ren saw the Witch's green eyes suddenly focus on something over her shoulder and widen slightly.

"Look who's here," She said, to which Ren spun around.

Walking down Diagon Ally towards the pub was Harry, Ron, Hermione, Remus, Tonks, and bringing up the rear with little Teddy in his arms was Sirius. Just like that the tension soaked its way back into Ren's body. This was it. Her two worlds were about to collide. Two worlds that she had fought to keep separate for so many years (whether that had been a smart thing to do or not). "Y'know I didn't think they would actually come." Ren heard Loren murmur, breaking her out of her stupor.

"Neither did I," She breathed in agreement. She saw Joshua catch sight of the approaching group and cease chasing his brother so that he could gawk freely. Ren couldn't blame the kid. Four of the most famous names in current Wizarding Britain, if not the Wizarding World in Harry's case, were currently approaching his aunt's birthday party.

"Hey," At her voice Ren turned back to Loren. "You've got this, girl." She smiled at her friend and took a deep breath.

"Harry!" She called out, drawing the attention of the group as they reached the open front door of the pub. By now the other people milling about outside the Dozing Dragon also seemed to have noticed them. Ren's voice caused Harry and the others to turn in her direction, and the woman felt herself grin at the look of relief on her Godson's face. "Over here!" She hollered, rising from the bench and stepping out as they made their way over to join her.

She lifted her sunglasses to rest upon her forehead. "Hi, darling." She said, warmly, as she hugged Harry.

"Happy birthday!" He said as he hugged her back. "I tell you what I'm so relieved that you're sat out here and we didn't have to go looking around the pub for you." Ren chuckled.

"I don't blame you." She said as she pulled away. "Everyone this is my friend Loren," She went on to say, motioning to the woman who had also risen from the bench and joined them. Ren pointed out Harry, Ron, Hermione and Tonks and introduced them. "And- oh, well I suppose you already know Remus and Sirius from back at Hogwarts." She said as she got to the two men. "Oh man this is weird." She trailed off quietly, but regardless a flurry of pleasant greetings were exchanged as Ren made her way around the group, hugging everyone in her own greeting.

She couldn't help but pause when she reached Sirius, and the man seemed to mirror her hesitation. "Hey," She said, gingerly.

"Hi," He responded, equally as stiffly, so Ren shifted her gaze to Teddy, settling for tickling his cheek in greeting which caused the toddler to gurgle happily. "You want to give him a cuddle?" Sirius asked.

"Err, I'll wait until I've sat down and tied my hair back." Ren said, almost shuddering at the memory of Teddy trying to detach her hair from her scalp.

"Good. I won't lie, I wanted to carry him so that your family would be less likely to curse me on sight." Sirius admitted, still not looking Ren in the eye as he causally began to bounce Teddy on his hip.

"That's… actually quite a smart idea, I'll give you that." Ren said before taking a step back to face the others. Though she had more than warned – threatened was probably the best word – her family to leave Sirius be, Ren did not for a second think that all of them would listen to her. The Gallaghers were nothing if not stubborn, and it would take more than a few stern words from Ren for them to forgot the negative image that they had all associated with Sirius for the past eighteen years. Maybe using the one-year-old as a tiny human shield would at least keep any altercations verbal as apposed too physical.

"Hey what does everyone want to drink?" Loren asked from beside Ren. "You guys all take a seat and I'll pop to the bar- BOYS, come and give me a hand!" She shouted to Joshua and Rio, who were both still gawking at Harry in amazement.


"So anyway, happy birthday, Ren!" Remus said once the group had got comfortable. Sirius was sat on the edge of the picnic bench with Ren beside him (though the pair managed to keep enough distance between them to not brush against each other), and Harry was on her other side. Remus and Tonks sat facing them on the other side of the bench, while Hermione and Ron had each pulled up a wooden chair on either end of the bench.

Teddy was contently perched on Ren's lap now that she had tied her curls back into a loose ponytail so that they were out of his way. "This is just a little something from all of us." The Werewolf placed a white giftbag with golden balloons decorating it on the table, and Sirius could see the look of genuine surprise on Ren's face.

"Oh my god, guys. You didn't have to get me anything!" She said as a thankful smile graced her face.

"Of course we did, it's your birthday!" Tonks insisted, "Now open it!" She drummed her hands on the wooden table in excitement, and Sirius couldn't help but laugh along with everyone else.

Truth be told, Sirius had very nearly bailed on attending Ren's party. He had woken up that morning after a fitful sleep and had lain there in full panic. While he had gradually started getting used to Ren being in his life again, he couldn't deny that his feelings were all over the place, especially after that night. But he was really starting to adapt to her presence again, if only for Harry's sake. However, facing her family… that was something else completely.

Sirius knew they would feel a lot of resentment towards him due to what Ren had gone through because of him, and while he didn't necessarily blame them for it, that didn't mean he was ready to face them. The Gallaghers were a fierce breed of Muggleborns. Surely Ren wouldn't have missed him if he didn't go to her party. It was Harry she wanted there, and Remus. Sirius was just collateral that came with them. She had probably just extended the invitation to him to be polite.

When Remus and Tonks had arrived at Grimmauld Place earlier that day, Remus had taken one look at Sirius, beheld the skittish state of the Animagus before him, looked him in the eye and said "You're coming." When Sirius had tried to protest the Werewolf had simply said "If not for Ren, go for Harry."

And so here he was, practically hanging off the edge of the bench in an attempt to avoid accidentally touching Ren. The sign of a truly mature adult. Sirius wasn't sure how his body would react if he did happen to brush against Ren, and he did not want to risk it and find out.

He watched as Ren fished an envelope from the bag, opened it and pulled out the card. Her movements were so oddly swift and graceful. They had all signed the card individually, including some of the Weasleys, and even Sirius had scribbled a quick 'Happy birthday. From Sirius.' in there. Far too formal a message for someone he had recently had mind-blowing sex with, but hey ho.

As she read the card Ren's face relaxed into a smile.

"That's so lovely, guys, thank you." Teddy let out an excited squeal and grabbed at the giftbag. "Okay, okay, let's see what you got me, huh Ted?" Ren asked the toddler, reaching out for the bag.

"Yeah, Teddy was in charge of getting the gift, so sorry if it's not great." Harry joked as one by one Ren pulled out the gifts wrapped in tissue paper and began to unwrap them. Remus hadn't been kidding when he had said it was from all of them. It had really been a team effort. A few days ago, there had been a huge discussion around Grimmauld Place's kitchen table on what the best birthday gift to get Ren was, and eventually Sirius had suggested making her a spa kit (if only to end the conversation). Everyone had loved the idea, and over the past week they had all picked up small items to contribute.

Sirius watched now as Ren unwrapped the gifts, handing the tissue paper to Teddy to shred, and exclaimed in delight at the various soaps, candles, oils, creams and sweet treats.

"Guys," She said, the faintest quiver in her voice. "This is so nice. Thank you all so much." Ren looked around at all of them as they brushed it off nonchalantly, and even Sirius smiled, sheepishly, when she met his eye.

Loren arrived back at that moment, levitating a full try of drinks. The two young boys trailed behind her, one of whom was carrying a bottle of Butterbeer in each hand. There was a lively outbreak of activity as drinks were distributed.

"Thanks Doctor Jen- I mean, Loren- wait, what should I call you?" Sirius fumbled as the woman passed him his pint of cider. He didn't know why he was floundering so much. Normally Sirius was cool, calm and collected around any woman, his personality overflowing with charm. But it appeared that if that woman had anything to do with Ren then his suaveness apparently did a runner.

"Oh God, just call me Loren!" The woman snorted, and Sirius caught sight of Remus sniggering behind her. "I haven't practiced since the kids were born, but I think I want to start working again," She admitted, taking a seat opposite him.

"Really?" Ren asked eagerly as she passed Tonks her spiced rum and coke.

"Yeah, I've been debating it for a while now and I think it's time." Loren said before turning to her sons, namely the older of the two who was still hovering at her side, Butterbeers in hand. "Go on then," She ushered gently, and Sirius watched as the boy nervously sidled up to Harry and Ron and timidly handed them each a drink.

"Thank you," Harry said with a good-hearted smile, and the red-head echoed him. "What's your name?" His Godson went on to ask the child, whose dark skin was flushed in excitement. Hermione, who had already been passed her drink from the tray, attempted to hide her grin behind her hand as she watched the interaction.

"Joshua," The boy answered, softly.

"Hi Joshua, I'm Harry. Is this your brother?" Harry asked, motioning to the younger boy who had crept up behind Joshua.

"Yes, this is Rio." The elder of the boys said, turning and dragging Rio to stand beside him. From his side Sirius heard a chuckle, and his gaze drifted to Ren who was watching the meeting with a look on her face that seemed to encompass what Sirius felt inside; pride.

"How do you know our Aunty Ren?" Rio suddenly asked, causing Harry to laugh.

"Well, I didn't know it for a very long time but Ren is actually my Godmother." He told the boys.

"Does this mean we're related?" Rio gaped up at him in awe.

"Errmm, not exactly," Harry answered, as he threw Ren an apologetic glance over his shoulder. "But it does definitely mean we'll see each other again." He added, and the boys grinned at each other triumphantly before scurrying away, chattering to each other in excitement.

"Nicely done," Ren remarked with a smirk.

"Ren!" A voice suddenly called out from behind them, and Sirius felt his blood freeze, recognising that voice. He braced himself and turned along with Ren, his stomach dropping. Approaching them was Violet and Emmett Gallagher. Ren's parents.

Sirius couldn't help but shiver at the sight of them. Beside the Potters, the Gallaghers had been one of the only families to ever truly accept him, loving him as one of their own. But now not only had they spent the last eighteen years thinking that Sirius had betrayed Ren, they would have also thought that he had betrayed them. Emmett and his brothers were proud Muggleborns, yet despite the reputation of the cruel, pure-blooded Blacks they had still opened up their family to Sirius, only to have ended up thinking that he had secretly loathed them and their blood status, that he had been playing them all in order to sell them out to the Dark Lord.

That hurt more than anything else. Sirius had loved Emmett and Violet as if they were his own parents. In fact, he had loved them more then he could have ever loved Orion and Walburga Black. The more Sirius had grown apart from his own brother, Regulus, the closer he had grown to Ren's brother, Ollie. Her sister, Vanessa, had bit by bit opened up to Sirius, and he had, in time, developed a fierce protectiveness over the blonde witch.

If… if Voldemort hadn't murdered James and Lily, if his whole world hadn't fallen apart, Sirius had planned to truly become a part of this family by law. Merlin, he had been working up the courage to ask Emmett for his blessing to propose to Ren. He still had that stupid ring…

Now he stared at Ren's parents as they approached and time seemed to slow. Violet's curls, which had always been a lighter shade of brown than Ren's, were now streaked with silver, and her face was lined with age, as was her husbands. Emmett's once sandy hair was now almost frosty white, but his dark eyes – Ren's eyes – still held that same mischievous spark. Seeing them was like seeing a ghost, yet it wasn't just the couple who sent fear creeping down Sirius' spine. It was also the woman who was marching towards them beside Violet and Emmett.

Aunty Brenda.

Brenda Gallagher was a short, round, elderly Welsh woman with tightly curled grey hair that fell to her permanently pursed lips. Small, oval spectacles perched on the end of her nose, and she tended to dress exclusively in grey and pink. Somehow she hadn't seemed to have aged a day since Sirius had last seen her. However, he was not witless enough to be fooled by her appearance. Putting it nicely, Aunty Brenda was a straight-talker. Putting it any other way, she was formidable, blunt and about as subtle as a dragon wearing a tutu. No one was safe from her critiques, and Aunty Brenda's bad side was the last place anyone wanted to be.

Yet despite this she was fiercely protective of her family, and would make the life of anyone who had caused them pain pure hell. Hence Sirius's terror. A part of him suspected that if he hadn't been locked away in Azkaban, Aunty Brenda would have tracked him down and finished him off herself. When Sirius's wide grey eyes met Aunty Brenda's narrowed blue ones he was sure that the two of them resembled a Mexican stand-off. Well, Aunty Brenda did at least. Sirius probably looked like he was trying to find the quickest escape route… which was in fact exactly what he was doing.

Without even thinking he quickly whirled around to Ren and seized Teddy from her, placing the tiny human shield in his own lap. When the trio reached them Sirius subconsciously rose to his feet out of respect, wanting to show them that he still held them in the highest regard, even Aunty Brenda.

He strategically placed Teddy the Shield against his chest so that the delightful infants adorable little face - that no one could ever possibly wish to harm - was facing Ren's family. He cleared his throat as Ren rose and stood beside him. Whether in support or just to get a better view of the protentional incoming assassination, Sirius didn't know (was he being dramatic?).

"Mr Gallagher, Mrs Gallagher," He greeted with a small nod, trying his best not to sound so solemn but failing miserably. "Aunty Brenda," He added with another nod. It was a well-known fact that 'Aunty Brenda' was essentially the woman's actual name. She introduced herself as Aunty Brenda to complete strangers and would settle for no other way of being addressed.

There was a pause which probably only lasted a couple of seconds, but to Sirius it felt like an eternity. But then Emmett stepped forward as Violet smiled at him.

"I think we're well past 'Mr and Mrs Gallagher' Sirius, you know to call us Emmett and Violet." He chuckled, taking Sirius's hand and shaking it firmly. The Animagus couldn't help the breathy sigh of relief that left him as he smiled in return. When Emmett stepped back Violet took his place, but she hugged Sirius in greeting instead.

"Hiya Sirius," She said warmly, mindful of the babbling infant between them. "It's lovely to see you, really it is." She assured him, and Sirius could have sworn he heard Ren let out a sigh that echoed his own moments before. "And who is this?" Violet crouched down slightly to say hello to Teddy, who beamed and immediately extended his chubby arms, attempting to grab at her curls.

"Woah, woah, woah," Sirius just managed to swoop the boy away so his fists missed the dangling hair.

"This is Teddy, and watch yourself because I'm speaking from experience when I say his hobbies include being adorable and yanking curly hair." Ren explained. "He's Remus's son. You remember Remus, don't you Mum?" She added, motioning to the Werewolf who was rising from his seat to greet her, and Violet immediately darted over to say hello to him and the rest of the group just as Aunty Brenda sniffed loudly.

"Well, well, well," She drawled in her thick Welsh accent. "I didn't think I'd ever be seeing you again, Black."

"Was that because he was falsely imprisoned in Azkaban?" Ren interjected, her tone stern.

"Partly that, and partly because I didn't think you'd ever have the balls to show your face again after what you put our Ren through." The woman said, dismissively. Sirius prickled at her words.

"Aunty Brenda!" Ren warned in a low voice.

"Well, here I am," He growled through gritted teeth. "I can understand you hating me when you thought that I'd betrayed my loved ones and was the Dark Lord's right-hand man. I get it. I'd loathe me for that as well." Sirius took a steadying breath as he hitched Teddy up to sit higher on his hip. The toddler seemed blissfully unaware of the tense conversation unfolding around him. That was good, at least. "But it is a proven fact that I'm an innocent man. I didn't commit those… unspeakable crimes."

He was aware of the hush that had encompassed the group. "But I won't deny the pain that my actions put Ren through. I can't deny that. Or how this family suffered because of me. And that's something that I'll regret for the rest of my life." Sirius didn't dare chance looking at Ren. Instead, he squared his shoulders and looked Aunty Brenda directly in the eye. "But Ren and I have agreed to move on from the past. Now all we both want is to be there for our Godson. That's all that matters to us. You don't have to like me, Aunty Brenda, but I hope that you can respect our decision, because I know it would mean I lot to Ren if you did." He finished.

'Bloody hell,' Sirius thought to himself. 'If James was here the arsehole would have applauded'.

To his surprise, Aunty Brenda offered the smallest hint of a smile before reaching out to clasp his shoulder in her firm grip.

"I'll drink to that, Black."

-x-

After the initial terror of first reacquainting with Ren's family, Sirius found that, dare he say it, he had actually enjoyed the rest of the party.

He had deemed it safe to surrender Teddy back to Moony, and throughout the afternoon other members of Gallagher family had also come over to greet him. Sirius couldn't express the surreal feeling when Ollie and Vanessa had come over to say hello. Neither of them bore even a trace of the youngsters they had been when he had last seen them. And why would they? They were fully grown adults who were married! With children! It was a lot to take in, just how much had changed.

Sirius had also been reacquainted with a number of Ren's cousins, including Lennie and Dexter, the twins who resembled Ren so strongly that the three of them could well have been triplets. He had always gotten on well with the twins, and seeing them again had sparked a joy within Sirius that he had not expected. Lennie had even introduced Sirius to his boyfriend, Sanjiv, whose charm had rivalled his own.

When Sirius had asked Dexter whether he had settled down, Dex had winced and said "Let's just say that monogamy isn't for me. A sentiment you echo if the tabloids are to be believed." He had laughed and Sirius had joined him, yet he couldn't help but reflect on the thought.

The only person that Sirius had ever had any desire to settle down with had been Ren… would he ever feel like that about anyone else? He didn't know, but what he did know was that when he saw none other than Daniel Dalton place his hand on the small of Ren's back as he whispered something in her ear, Sirius couldn't help the twinge of jealously that coursed through him.

Though they had never actually met properly, Sirius knew of Daniel, and Daniel knew of Sirius. The two men moved in the same circles, attended the same parties, knew the same people, had the same reputation.

But that didn't mean that Sirius was prepared to see Ren throw her head back and laugh at whatever Daniel had said to her, placing her hand on his chest as she did so. He didn't know why it made his insides twist. Ren had told him that she would find someone to move on with. "I'll… I'll find someone to, y'know, go for a drink with or something. Nothing serious, but just so we're not dwelling on… this." She had said that night.

No, that didn't make it easier for Sirius, especially as it looked as if whatever was happening between Ren and Daniel could well become more than 'nothing serious'. Nor did it make it easier when Ren introduced him to Daniel, and he had actually seemed like a decent bloke.

Maybe Sirius should indeed listen to Ren and find his own distraction.


At around half past ten that evening the party had finsihed and Ren now found herself sat up against the headboard of the bed in Loren's spare room with the woman in question beside her. Ren hadn't wanted the lovely day to end, so when Loren had invited her to stay over at her and Leeroy's house, she had been all too happy to accept.

She'd truly enjoyed the birthday party, much to her own surprise, and she was very grateful for the effort her family had put in to organising it. There had been no major issues (minus the brief hiccup of Aunty Brenda meeting Sirius again, but that thankfully hadn't escalated), and all in all it had been most enjoyable having her loved ones gathered together.

Now, Ren and Loren were both stretched out in bed, duvet tucked up to their waists, each with a glass of wine in hand ("A nightcap!" Loren had insisted), as the small television set on the dresser opposite them played the video tape of one of Ren's favourite Muggle films; 'Singin' in the Rain'. Loren wasn't particularly a fan of the movie but she had reluctantly conceded when Ren had pulled the "But it's my birthday!" card… despite it not actually being her birthday for another couple of days. Either way, it had worked its magic, and it was the perfect way for Ren to end her day.

There was a soft knock at the bedroom door before it opened and in walked Loren's husband Leroy, carrying a wooden tray.

"Leeeee!" Ren greeted cheerfully, causing the man to roll his eyes fondly.

Ren absolutely adored Loren's husband. He was tall and broad, with rich brown skin and long dreadlocks that fell down his back. Ren had maintained that from the moment she had met him (Leroy had been her seventh year Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, and would be returning to the role when Hogwarts reopened in September) he was one of the most effortlessly cool people that she had ever met. His stoic nature balanced out Loren's tendency for dramatics, and he seemed perfectly at peace with the fact that when he married Loren, he also got Ren included in the deal as they apparently came as a pair.

"I've come baring food." Leroy said in his deep voice, and at the mention of food Ren and Loren both exclaimed in delight, kicking off the covers and crawling over the mattress towards him eagerly. The sight of the two fully grown, slightly drunk, women caused Leroy to laugh. "Honestly, the pair of you are ridiculous," He held the tray out of his reach. "Get back. I like this film so I'm going to join you."

"Ha! I told you it's good Loren!" Ren jabbed at her friend as they settled back down in their previous positions, only now squishing closer together so that Lee could squeeze on to the edge of the bed. He stretched one leg out across the mattress and rested his other foot on the floor. Loren rolled her eyes from where she was now wedged between her husband and her friend.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." She muttered as Leroy rested the tray on her lap. "Ooohhh, very nice." She admired the selection of cheese and crackers, grapes, a bar of chocolate, the remainder of their bottle of wine, a rolled-up copy of the Evening Prophet, and a bottle of beer which Leroy picked up for himself.

"This is amazing, thanks Lee. I always knew you were too good for Loren." Ren teased, helping herself to a cracker that was smothered in butter and piled high with crumbly cheddar cheese.

"I mean that's true enough." Loren agreed as she ripped open the chocolate bar.

"Did the kids settle down okay?" Ren asked after she'd swallowed a bite of her cracker. Leroy took a swig of his drink and nodded.

"Yeah, they finally crashed after the sugar high that came from those fizzy drinks. They were out like lights." He said.

"Thank God," Loren mumbled as she broke of a chunk of chocolate. "Oh!" She suddenly exclaimed and turned to Ren. "Speaking of kids, you need to cast a pregnancy detection charm!"

Leroy choked on his beer and spun round to face Ren just as she let out a loud groan of frustration and threw her head back against her pillow.

"Are you pregnant?!" Lee sputtered in shock, to which Ren shouted "No!" at the exact same moment Loren said "We don't know.". Ren glared at her friend before focusing her attention on Leroy.

"I'm not pregnant Lee," She insisted. "I've just felt a little rough for the past week or so and now Loren feels the need to debate whether I'm pregnant or not." Lee blinked at her.

"But have you… had sex recently-"

"-That's neither here nor there!" Ren interrupted dismissively, as Loren nodded furiously at her husband. "Okay, okay, fine! You know what? I will do the stupid pregnancy spell! I'll do it, if only to shut you up." She said, yanking her wand from the beside table and turning back to the couple who were staring at her with expectant faces.

She paused. "… What's… What's the spell, again?" Ren asked, realising that she couldn't actually remember the incantation. Lee gaped at her.

"You don't know it?" He asked, clearly baffled, and Ren shrugged.

"I haven't had to cast it in about eighteen years, cut me some slack man." She said, before turning to Loren. "Well? What it is?" Now it was Loren's turn to shrug.

"I don't know." She admitted. Ren and Leroy now both stared at her in astonishment.

"But- you have two kids!" Ren retaliated. "How do you not know it?" Lee placed his head in hands, looking completely hopeless.

"I used a Muggle pregnancy test with Joshua and I found out at the doctors with Rio." Loren reasoned.

"HOW do two fully grown women not know the pregnancy detection spell?!" Leroy demanded, his disbelief evident. Loren and Ren looked at him and after a brief pause, they both shrugged simultaneously. "Merlin give me strength," The man muttered. "You point your wand at your stomach, say 'Deprehensio transversus', then gently draw your wand away and a white cloud will emit from it. After a minute or so if that cloud turns gold then you're…" Lee trailed off and nodded at Ren's stomach. She swallowed.

"Great," She said, quietly. "Well thank goodness you're here, Lee. If not, Loren would have been making a late-night trip to the pharmacists." She muttered, and Loren snorted.

"I don't think I would be." She said.

"Well, I wouldn't be going. You're the one making me-"

"-Are you two just going to argue about this or are you actually going to do the spell?" Leroy interrupted.

"Argue!" Ren snapped back. Maybe she was deflecting. So what? "Anyway-"

"-Do the spell, Ren. Then when it says you're not pregnant we can find out what's actually wrong with you." Loren said.

"Okay, fine!" Ren caved. "And for the record nothing is wrong with me, thank you very much." She took a breath, swallowing her nerves. She was confident she wasn't pregnant. Though Ren knew it had been irresponsible to completely forget to use protection that night with Sirius, she maintained that the likelihood of a thirty-eight-year-old (very soon to be thirty-nine) woman probably had a much smaller chance of falling pregnant… right? Truth be told, Ren felt rather foolish for not being completely aware on this subject matter. "I'm going to do it." She raised her wand. "Right now."

"While we're young, please. I'd like to go back to watching this terrible film." Loren said as she poured each of them another glass of wine.

"It's not a terrible film, actually. It's a great film, a classic-"

"-Ren." Lee interrupted.

"Right, sorry." Taking a deep breath, Ren pointed her wand at her stomach. "Deprehensio transversus" She said as clearly as she could manage. The tip of the wand began to glow, and very slowly Ren began to pull it away from her. As she did so a wispy trail of white smoke seemed to seep from her body, still connected to the wand tip. When it was completely extracted Ren gave the wand a flick, causing the smoke to separate from the tip and settle in a small, white cloud before them, swirling in a hypnotic pattern.

"Well done." Loren praised, breaking the silence as she passed Ren her wine glass. Leroy quirked a brow.

"Really?" He asked.

"Hey she's already drank her fair share of wine today, what's one more glass going to do?" Ren nodded in agreement, taking a sip. However the wine now tasted acidic and sat heavily in her mouth, becoming a struggle to swallow. It was all coming back to her. This process. She couldn't help but remember the first and only time she had done this in the past.

Ren sat upon the closed toilet seat, her bare legs bouncing nervously. Sirius was perched on the rim of the bathtub to her right. His elbows were resting on his knees, his hands clasped over his jaw in an attempt to keep them still. Their gazes were fixed on the wispy white cloud between them.

They had decided to cast the detection spell because Ren had missed her period, but to Ren it went beyond that. She just had a feeling. It was hard to explain, but something was… different.

Merlin, how long had they been watching this bloody thing for? It was half-past seven in the morning and Sirius would have to leave for his shift at the Cleansweep Factory soon. Ren spared a glance at her boyfriend. His stormy grey eyes were unreadable, his entire body seemed taunt. They hadn't ever properly discussed having children. What with moving into their new home they just hadn't got round to it. But Ren saw the joy that Harry brought to Lily and James. Saw how Sirius loved that baby with his entire being, and she couldn't help but wonder-

Sirius's sharp gasp filled the bathroom. Ren jolted, watching as, ever so slowly, the white smoke melted into a bright, shimmering gold.

"Oh my God," Ren whispered.

"Oh my God," Sirius repeated her words, and the couple turned to one another. Sirius looked shocked and Ren felt her heart plummet, but then suddenly the biggest smile she had ever seen broke out across his face. "Oh my GOD!" He exclaimed, bolting upright, crashing through the golden cloud, causing it to vanish, and falling to his knees before Ren. "You're… you're pregnant." He murmured, gazing at her stomach before looking up to meet her eye. "Ren, we- we're having a baby!" Pure elation lit up his face, but Ren also saw tears well up in the corners of his eyes as he took her face in his hands.

"We're having a baby." Ren echoed, her voice breathless as tears formed in her own eyes. Sheer giddy joy. That's all she felt at that moment as they grinned at each other, tears falling down their cheeks.

"I love you," Sirius told her as Ren wrapped her fingers around his forearms, pressing her forehead against his. "More than I could ever express. I love you."

"Merlin, this is fucking horrible." Ren said, tensely. "How long has it been?"

"Like thirty seconds." Loren answered.

"Oh Jesus," Ren got up and started pacing. When she spotted the newspaper on the tray, she pointed at it. "Find us the Quidditch scores for today will you? That'll pass the time." Loren nodded.

"Of course," She said, reaching for the paper, unrolling it and laying it out across her lap. "Good idea. A minute seems to last for about an hour when you're waiting for something like a pregnancy test. Or exercising. Have you ever done a plank? They're absolutely…" Loren trailed off in what sounded like shock, causing Ren to spin around. She was met by the sight of Loren and Leroy gawking at the front page of the newspaper. Ren hurriedly knelt back onto the bed and felt her jaw drop when she saw the front page headline.

"Secret Past Relationship of Serial Playboy Sirius EXPOSED!

Casanova Sirius Black and Muggle Melody's Ren Gallagher were once an item!"

Below that were two Wizarding photographs. One was a paparazzi photo that looked to have been taken that day. Sirius and Ren were sat side by side on the picnic bench outside the front of the Dozing Dragon, and Ren was smiling softly at whatever Sirius had been saying to her.

The second photograph made Ren's heart beat so fast she thought it could well have been a heart attack. It was of Sirius and herself when they were a young, very much in love couple. She recognised the picture immediately as a shot from the yearbook of their graduation year at Hogwarts. It had originally been a group photo that included the Marauders, as well as the girls Ren had shared a dormitory with, but it had been cropped just to show Ren in her school uniform with Sirius stood behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist as they smiled for the camera. Every so often he would place a kiss on her cheek.

"Shit." Ren said, not knowing what else to say, but then at that moment the white cloud before them slowly began to transform into a brilliant, glistening gold.

Now Ren really did think she was having a heart attack. "Shit." She said again, only to be met with silence as the three adults gaped at the golden cloud.

"Well," Loren broke the silence in a slow, careful tone. "I'm just going to… take that off you." She gently reached out and extracted the glass of wine from Ren's hand.

Well, well, well, isn't that quite the turn of events! What did you think of it? What do you think will happen next? Leave me a REVIEW letting me know! It was really fun introducing Ren's family back into the story (I DON'T own the charcter Aunty Brenda, she is from an old British sitcom called 'Stella') and I absolutely love writing the friendship dynamic between Ren and Loren. I've realised that I really miss writing the Sirius/James relationship in Perfectly Content, so Ren/Loren will now be taking care of that friendship bond and sassy banter we all love. I guess amoungst other things this chapter ended up being a bit of a love letter to those strong friendships that we all need and cherish.

I hope you're all well and are keeping safe. I've just finished the first semester of my final year at uni and now have a month off, which is why I've managed to get this BEAST of a chapter out to you guys. I've seriously found writing to be such a joy for the past few days, so hopefully that will continue and I'll not just update about once a year or so, haha.

As usual I DO NOT HAVE A BETA for this fic, so there will probably a good amount of mistakes in there, but we can just ignore them can't we.

I just want to say thank you for the continuous support I receive for this fic. It honestly means the world to me and motivates me so much, so you can rest assured I won't abandon this story!

Eve x

P.S. Please follow/fave/REVIEW my loves